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Revised 6 January 2018

Club History 2: Early Twentieth Century

Venues and Leading Players

After a short stay at St. George's Restaurant, the club's headquarters were established in 1925 at the Victoria Institute in the Committee Room directly facing Foregate Street. This impressive room with its single long table surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookcases and the Van Dyke portrait of King Charles I, was the envy of visiting teams.

Prominent members of Worcester City Chess Club in the 1930s. Robert Wormald is farthest left and Tom Widdows Snr (moustache) and Tom Widdows Jnr are 3rd and 4th from the right.

Worcester City Club had several strong players in the 1930s and you can see a picture of the senior members above. The Club was a founder member of Worcester and District Chess League in 1932. Between 1930 and 1960 the club was dominated by Reginald Bonham. Although he was blind, his disability did not limit his activities.

Chess for Blind players had been a notable feature of chess in Worcester. The Worcestershire Challenge shield which is offered by the Worcestershire Chess Association for the Public Schools was brought to Worcester for the first time when Worcester College for the Blind defeated the holders, King Edward's School Stourbridge by 6 games to 0. The Blind College had a very successful season beating every school they met and have suffered defeat only once by Malvern Town Chess Club. In 1919, Worcester College for the Blind hosted a simutaneous display by the future Cuban world chess champion José Capablanca who had just won the 1919 Hastings Victory Congress. The college also hosted a simultaneous display by Alekhine in 1926 shortly before he wrested the world title from Capablanca. The Head Teacher in1931 was GC Brown and he stated the college team had played 89 matches against other public schools, winning 85, drawing 1 and losing only 3 matches since the club was formed in 1913. Pictures showing the players are in Winter's Chess Notes 3421.

Hosting the British Championship

Worcester hosted the 1931 British Championship tournament. It was won by F D Yates with 8 out of 12 followed by William Winter and Mir Sultan Khan each on 7 points.

Leading players at BCF Congress Worcester 1931: Sultan Khan, Theodore Tylor, Sir George Thomas, and Arthur J McKenzie
Pictured playing left at Worcester, c.1931, are Mir Sultan Khan (1905-1966) (on the left, playing black) and Theodore H. Tylor (1900-1968) (right, playing white).
Spectators include Sir George Thomas (1881-1972) (far left) and Arthur J Mackenzie (1871-1949) (far right).

Centenary Year

The Club's centenary year was celebrated in 1937 by a large chess congress in the Public Hall of the Cornmarket, now sadly demolished. The winner of the Premier Tournament was the talented university player, later President of Devon County Chess Association, A.R.B. Thomas who led the field which included visiting masters from Germany (A. Seitz) and Argentina (Guimard). F.E.A. Kitto won the Premier Reserves B, and Mrs Mary Bain (later USA Women's Champion and world Women's Champion contender) won the First Class Section.

The War Years

During the Second World War (1937-45) many players were short term residents in Worcesterand notable among them were Leonard Delfin who won every game he played on top board for the club. In 1945, Worcester entertained a team from the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army and members regularly visited wounded servicemen at Ronkswood Hospital. In the post-war years, Harold Breakwell, Tesside Champion, joined the club. Another strong player was Maurice Smith who during one spell played without a single loss for three years and was the only player to score a draw in 1946 when Max Euwe, the World Champion, took on the 30 of the strongest players from Worcester City Club and Worcester Royal Grammar School.

Worcester's International Players and Writers

Bonham was a master at the RNIB New College at Worcester and a governor of Worcester Training College (now University of Worcester). He was World Correspondence Chess Champion and World Blind Chess Champion, being made a grandmaster in 1958. Over-the-board, he won the club championship on each occasion he competed: he was the Worcestershire Individual Champion over twenty times, and the Midland Champion several times. As an organiser Bonham founded the International Braille Chess Association in 1958. Another strong player of these years was Douglas Wormald who captained Worcester teams for over twenty years. His theoretical knowledge of the Sicilian Defence and the English Opening was much feared. With Bonham he wrote Chess Questions Answered 1945) and More Chess Questions Answered (1948). His greatest achievements were in the field of coaching junior players.

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